David spent built a top-selling store on Amazon for the past two and a half years. From his office in Shanghai, China, he sells artisan products to clients, most of whom are in the US. He had to work hard to get to the top of the sales rankings. In addition to spending heavily on advertising, he also paid to have his products tested by a Swiss company, SGS, which inspects and certifies products, so he can reassure American customers who are put off by “made in China” products. “It’s very expensive to generate momentum on Amazon,” he says.
In May, David browsed Temu, an e-commerce platform from Chinese tech giant PDD that has grown tremendously since its launch last September in the US. He was surprised to find two listings that looked identical to his own best-selling products. The photos were the same and the product descriptions used the same keywords.
“I took and edited these photos myself after spending a lot of time learning photography and photoshop,” said David, who asked for his name to be changed because he was concerned about Temu’s retaliation. “I used many different photos and did several rounds of testing, the product photos I use now have the best conversion rate.”
The duplicate entries, which WIRED investigated, even list the test certificates from Switzerland – with his company address on it. The versions of the product on Temu are 30 percent cheaper. In the past month, David’s sales of those two products have dropped by more than 20 percent. He can’t say for sure that the drop is related to the Temu listings, but he suspects there is a connection.
David’s experience is not unique. WIRED has investigated dozens of cases where Amazon sellers from China claim to have found their product listings, including product images, descriptions and “browse trees” – a way to optimize product listings. Many of those claims seem to hold true, with storefronts on Temu using images and text that first appeared on Amazon listings. Those affected say they have complained to Temu asking for the photos to be removed, without success.
Temu did not respond to a request for comment. Amazon spokesperson Mira Dix said via email: “We strongly condemn this type of criminal activity. If a brand believes their Amazon product information or images are being copied and used to sell infringing products elsewhere, we encourage them to contact us. contact our Counterfeit Crimes Unit.”
Temu’s business model is based on selling low-cost unbranded goods to price-sensitive consumers. Most of those products come from manufacturers in China, some of whom previously worked with PDD’s Chinese e-commerce platform, Pinduoduo. Temu’s sellers are independent companies that sell through the platform. An investigation by WIRED in May found that Temu, which was trying to break into the US market and compete with Amazon with aggressive discounts, had pressured sellers in its own supply chain to lower prices to undercut competition.
Selling on ecommerce platforms isn’t as simple as posting a few photos and a price tag. Sellers often invest quite heavily in high-quality photos, and they experiment with product descriptions, the design of their storefronts, and other information to improve their chances of ranking in search results and in front of customers.